Friday, April 30, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 14 (Ted Greenwald)

Common Sense
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Greenwald, Ted
Common Sense

Given to me by Charles Bernstein. If you look on the right side of the frame you can see a gray-brown, off-color line spanning the length of the cover. A printer error, I guess.

Books overfilled every available surface in Charles Bernstein's office/seminar room at SUNY Buffalo. One full wall about 15 feet wide and 10 high -- the width of the room -- and another of about the same measurements -- constituting about a third of the length of the room -- were all bookshelves. These formed a cozy library-like space surrounding CB's desk, itself a drab, university-issue clunker piled high with books and folders and papers. I think there may even have been a typewriter on the desk! In 1999!

Running along the length of the room opposite the books a bank of heating units fronted the windows, which looked out onto the campus from the fourth floor. This doubled as a book shelf, bearing stacks and stacks of books, many of which were titles that for one reason or another Charles had multiple copies of. Many a time upon entering the classroom for a seminar CB would offer us free copies of books. He had a large number of this Ted Greenwald book, I think (likely due to the printer error), because after he passed them out, many still remained on the sill. They had a nice view, I guess.

from Common Sense

Radio Crop

radio crop

train at home in your spare time


a cloud on
a stamp on
a postcard in
a mailbox, wing
to you (to you)

love repeats itself in repairs

you repair to
the slot where
the card from me
fell to you (to you)

love, from me

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 13.2 (Graham Greene)

The Tenth Man
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Greene, Graham
The Tenth Man

I think this, like the previous title, also came off my parents' bookshelves, and I think I took it from them, like the previous title, after having read The Quiet American, with the intention, as with the previous title, of continuing my reading through the novels of Graham Greene; however, as with the previous title, I never did get around to reading it, and so it has remained, like the previous title, on my shelves, standing up next to the previous titles, unwanted, unopened, and unread.

from The Tenth Man

Most of them told the time roughly by their meals, which were unpunctual and irregular: they amused themselves with the most childish games all through the day, and when it was dark they fell asleep by tacit consent–not waiting for a particular hour of darkness for they had no means of telling the time exactly: in fact there were as many times as there were prisoners. When their imprisonment started they had three good watches among thirty-two men, and a secondhand and unreliable–or so the watch owners claimed–alarm clock. The two wristwatches were the first to go: their owners left the cell at seven o'clock one morning–or seven-ten the alarm clock said–and presently, some hours later, the watches reappeared on the wrists of the two guards.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 13.1 (Graham Greene)

Greene, Graham
The Honorary Consul

I think this came from my parents' bookcase. I seem to remember seeing it there as a teenager, maybe even as a child. I suspect I "borrowed" it after having read The Quiet American in college. I neither read it nor returned it.

I once read an article about Graham Greene, a persistent and often prescient critic of American foreign policy throughout his life, that described how, after the Freedom of Information act was passed, he spent years trying to obtain his FBI file, which he often bragged must have been a foot thick. After years of working at it through a U.S. lawyer, he finally got a hold of the file and was disappointed and a little ego-bruised to discover that all it contained were a couple of newspaper clippings about him and a few inconsequential notes.

from The Honorary Consul

Doctor Eduardo Plarr stood in the small port on the Paraná, among the rails and yellow cranes, watching where a horizontal plume of smoke stretched over the Chaco. It lay between the red bars of sunset like a stripe on a national flag. Doctor Plarr found himself alone at that hour except for the one sailor who was on guard outside the maritime building. It was evening which, by some mysterious combination of failing light and the smell of an unrecognized plant, brings back to some men the sense of childhood and of future hope and to others the sense of something which has been lost and nearly forgotten.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 13 (Graham Greene)

The Quiet American
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Greene, Graham
The Quiet American

Purchased at the Fordham University bookstore for a summer course on Politics in the Novel, probably 1991. I remember this being the novel I liked the most from the several we read in our summer course.

Oddly, though, at this moment I feel a stronger memory of having lent the book out to my friend Chris Alexander a few years back. Chris took over the apartment below me on College St. in Buffalo after Jonathan Skinner had moved to North Buffalo upon the arrival of his wife, Isabelle Pelissier, from NM. This was 1999. He'd been living there a year on his own before she came to join him.

My friends Aaron & Michelle rented the place over the summer before moving on to San Diego and Vermont, respectively, then Chris moved in some time in the fall after he and his partner at the time, LInda Russo, had split up. I think I lived above him for two years or so before I met Lori. I moved in with her almost immediately.

Having a friend below me like that was sort of nice -- like having a roommate you didn't have to share a bathroom with, whose living habits didn't affect your own. Chris liked to cook and I remember we used to sit in his kitchen a lot, talking and eating.

Chris smoked pretty heavily, and I had just quit smoking earlier in the year. I used to watch the way he held his cigarettes as he smoked, which often changed between a very feminine way of smoking and a very masculine. Some days, he would hold the cigarette daintily at the very tips of his fingers and blow the smoke upward out of the corner of his mouth. Other days he'd hold it firm between thumb and forefinger, and sort of cup it as he dragged, then he'd blow the smoke straight forward in a masculine gust.

Either way, I was jealous of the fact he was smoking.

Anyhow, I remember lending Chris this book, it was around the time the film version came out, I think, and I remember thinking that I should read it again when he returned it. He did return it, but I have yet to re-read it. I did see the movie though.

from The Quiet American

After dinner I sat and waited for Pyle in my room over the rue Catinat; he had said, 'I'll be with you at latest by ten,' and when I midnight struck I couldn't stay quiet any longer and went down the street. A lot of old women in black trousers squatted on the landing: it was February and I suppose too hot for them in bed. One trishaw driver pedalled slowly by toward the river front and i could see lamps burning where they had disembarked the new American planes. There was no sign of Pyle anywhere on the long street.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 12 (Stephanie Gray)

Heart Stoner Bingo
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Gray, Stephanie
Heart Stoner Bingo

Sent to me by the author in anticipation of a reading she gave in Buffalo a few years back.

I can't remember exactly how I met Stephanie except that she used to live in Buffalo and often worked at the border between the poetry scene and the film/media scene while she was here. She once gave a workshop on prose poetry very late at night in the back room of Rust Belt Books, I recall. Someone else gave a late night workshop on how to splice film with scissors and tape. When everyone had spliced together their portion, she spliced them all on to a reel and ran them through the projector.

Stephanie eventually left Buffalo and I didn't hear from her for a while and then one day she wrote that she was living in NYC and did I know anyone who needed help writing grants. I put her in touch with Anselm Berrigan, who promptly put her to work. I think she may still write grants for the Poetry project, but I can't be sure. Anyhow, I was happy to see a few years after that that her own book came out. She read here around the time of its publication, also, fittingly, in the back of Rust Belt Books, though I think it was at a more reasonable hour.

from Heart Stoner Bingo

The Hymn of One Wolf Or Pack of Wolves Running

So, you probably think you heard one cliché running? By your apartment building, presumably. The cliché is back, this time in a red hood, (or Red Hook?) but rather, a red pea (not bean) coat that's on sale at Old Navy for $75. You could also buy 75 pounds of rice (for yourself, presumably) and no wolves will probably ever chase you, especially if your weren't wearing a hood (i.e. red) on this lake effect day.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 11 (Michael Grant)

Grant, Michael
Greek & Roman Historians

Not sure where I bought this -- online or at Talking Leaves...Books. I must have bought it when I was working on my orals in graduate school. I have almost no memory of having read it, despite the fact that there are graduate school type markings throughout the text. It appears to concern (and to be concerned by) the general inaccuracy of classical history and the unreliability of classical historians such as Herodotus and Thucydides.

Influenced as I was by Olson in graduate school, I read both Herodotus and Thucydides . Olson argued that Herodotus' methodology–which Olson frequently referred to as " 'istorin " or "finding out for oneself"–despite its tendency toward credulousness and fabulation, was preferable to the kind of history practiced by Thucydides, in which documentation and factual accuracy come into the foreground.

The logic behind this argument was that Thucydides' methology is one of exclusion, while Herodotus' is one of inclusion. Thucydides makes judgments as he goes along, determines what he considers to be the most accurate documentation of a specific event or events, and then excludes all information he considers irrelevant or inaccurate.

Herodotus takes up just the opposite task. His investigation is less a set of judgments than a reportage of the information he discovers while seeking out the truth. If there are three explanations for what causes the flooding of the nile, Herodotus offers all three, along with his own commentary on the possible veracity of each explanation. In the same situation, we can be pretty sure that Thucydides would choose an authoritative explanation and leave the others out.

Herodotus seems to recognize that fabulation is inherent in history itself (which might explain the conflation of the terms 'history' and 'story' into a single term, "histoire,' in French, for instance). Thucydides attempts to create a science capable of separating fact from fiction, story from history, the true from the false. Herodotus, then, represents a kind of relativism which recognizes truth as provisional and contextual and ultimately subjective, whereas Thucydides represents a kind of absolutism that asserts the primacy of authority, fact and objectivity in the reconstruction of history.

It's no wonder the poet loves Herodotus. The longer I work on reconstructing my own history, the more I have to agree with Olson's Herodotus myself.

from Greek & Roman Historians

Historiography in antiquity dealt with important and noteworthy events, or at any rate those regarded as such, according to principles, interests, aims and tastes of great diversity. These events vary according to the social ambience in which a work is composed, according to its intended public, and according to the historiographical tradition to which it belongs...The different types of history in antiquity aimed at different readers, had different aims, were composed according to different principles.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 10 (Kenneth Grahame)

Grahame, Kenneth
The Wind In The Willows

This book belongs to Lori. I believe it originally belonged to her grandfather, from whom she inherited a small shelf of hardcover books that included, remarkably, given that her grandparents were farmers living in an isolated portion of North Central New York State, a first edition hardcover of Lolita.

We visited the old homestead a few years back. It was in autumn, and Lori had connected with the couple that had purchased her family's "camp" on a lake near Watertown. She spent many of her summers at the camp and most of her fondest childhood memories are located there. We rented it for a long weekend and while we were in town we drove over to Rossi, the farming hamlet her grandparents once lived in and where her mother was raised. Her mother was a Turnbull. We found lots of old Turnbull gravestones in the little cemetery there.

To get to the farm, you drive along a river, over a little bridge and up a hill. On the right stands an enormous old barn, probably fifty feet high, leaning slightly, which we have been told was purchased out of a Sears and Roebuck catalog. To the left, the little farmhouse, now empty, sits atop a little hillock. We climbed up and circled the vacant structure several times, peeking here and there through the dirty windows. Lori recognized a few aging pieces of furniture that still sat unused in various rooms. Apparently the farm had been sold years ago to someone who owned adjoining land. They had no use for the house, so they let it go. They still seemed to be using the barn, though.

Anyhow, this is not a first edition of Wind in the Willows. It seems to have been printed in 1913. I think it is a second edition. It has a beautiful cover, which you can sort of see behind the computer glare in the photo. A frog in a straw hat and a white linen suit sits atop a stump beside a river, smoking a cigar through a long ivory stem, a very self-satisfied look on his face. What appear to be a mole and a rat row past in a little boat. The rat is looking in toward the shore. An otter in jeans, white shirt and suspenders stands on the bank, his right arm on the shoulder of a seated fox in a yellow and red plaid shirt. The otter appears to be waving to the mole and the rat, while the fox seems to be pointing his finger at the frog, his head is slightly upturned in that direction. He is smiling.

I am sure these are all famous characters from the book, but I wouldn't know. I haven't read it. Maybe I will. Maybe. I. Will.

from The Wind in the Willows


The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring- cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said `Bother!' and `O blow!' and also `Hang spring-cleaning!' and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gravelled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, `Up we go! Up we go!' till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 9.1 (Noah Eli Gordon)

The Frequencies
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Gordon, Noah Eli
The Frequencies

I think this, like the last, was given to me by the author when he visited. On the other hand, it might be a review copy. Or maybe I got it some other way. I can't remember.

My mother was in town over the weekend, and we spent the first day or so playing my favorite game -- trying to remember my childhood. Lately, I've been asking her to try to remember the addresses of the three homes we lived in in California in the 70's so I can look at them on Google Maps. They were all in the same town, Los Gatos, and they were all within a couple of miles of each other. She's said she has the addresses written down somewhere, but would need to dig in order to find them.

When she arrived on Thursday, we immediately got out my laptop and started trying to find the houses by looking at overhead map views of the town. We were pretty sure we found the last house we lived in, and I think we may have found the second house -- she was about 75 percent sure on the latter. She was able to remember how to get to each by taking a left or right off of various main roads in Los Gatos, but she couldn't remember the house numbers.

The details my mother remembered about the first house were that that it was on a hill and that there was a larger hill behind the house, which back in the day had been an orchard. The hill in front of the house was covered in ivy. The driveway was on the right side of the house. We virtually drove up and down the length of the street, but to no avail. It now seemed to be a very wealthy neighborhood, so we guessed the house may have been either torn down or added to.

She remembered that there was a little brick wall around the garden of the second, which was how we think we identified it. She didn't like that house.

She remembered there had been a rose garden between the third house and its neighbor. It was no longer there, but you could see where it might have been. I remembered a tall evergreen in the front yard. I remembered it because right before we left CA some kids had teepeed the house. In the morning, the tall evergreen had turned white from all the toilet paper wrapped around it. We spent the whole morning climbing up and down the tree to take it down. We couldn't get to the top, so we had to let the rain take care of the rest.

from The Frequencies


You told me that in the center of every bird there is a tiny radio, but your trying on of different voices won't help the notes exit, & dare I say, you weren't exactly born with wings. At heart I'm a ham operator, & whether lips make regret & beaks music is irrelevant to a bird's desire to touch. "I don't understand," you said, "it's easy enough to move on." I was stuck with fundraising duties, handling the complaint line. The producer handed me a passage from Moby Dick, made me cross out the word whale, replace it with our call letters & read it over the air. I was creaking the broadcast, afraid they'd come with torches to oust me from the isolation brought on by excess listening. I could always mention the albatross, but it'd be the obvious out, besides even a birdsound is a radio sputtering in white noise, enticed more by the bleached pigeon bones on the roof than your lackluster reception.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 9 (Noah Eli Gordon)

Gordon, Noah Eli
A Fiddle Pulled From
The Throat of a Sparrow

I think this was given to me by the author after a reading in Buffalo a couple of years ago.

Nothing is coming to me this morning, except maybe the light from the window, as depicted in the photo I took of myself holding NEG's book. Someday I might go back and look at all of the photos I have taken in this project in order to see the way the light behind me changes day to day throughout the year. Lately it has been creating a kind of halo around the edges of the books I hold up, which must have something to do with the way the sun reflects off the side of the cream-colored house next door at this time of year. The two houses are much too close together for the sun to shine directly through the window. Who knew cream could be so reflective? I wonder what I will think of all of this when I am done? Will I ever be done? Now there's a question for you.

from A Fiddle Pulled From The Throat of a Sparrow

The Book of Signs

Icons were no longer icons
& their eye-sacks unlaced
In the field, testing the full range of motion
All wicks removed, each stump sanded down
Stripped of rank & arm at their sides
counted each ring, regardless
their equivalent for the word winter

Collected shoes called acceptable losses,
so without hitting the bottom
the next sign read: lasso, lash, lesson
Still, one went on playing her violin
Slit cuts in hems & bricks left unstacked
Icons were icons & the book remained open

Monday, April 19, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 8.1 (Nada Gordon)

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Gordon, Nada

Sorry for the hiatus -- I had a long work weekend that also included entertaining my mother for three days, so I didn't have much time to sit down and write. This book was given to me by Gary Sullivan at the same time he gave me the book mentioned in the previous post.

Nada commented on the last post to remind me that we also went on the Entropy Tour and bought maple candy during their visit. One of the things I wish would happen more often on this blog is that people would add their own memories of specific events to the ones that I post here. It happens now and again, but I think it really enhances the experience to see it from different vantages.

I have become acutely aware in the writing of this blog of just how subjective, selective and constructed memories are. What I remember about a particular event (or how I reconstruct a particular set of circumstances) is just that -- what I remember, not what someone else does.

For instance, I believe Nada when she says I took them on the Entropy Tour of Buffalo. I say 'believe' because it is highly likely that I would have taken two visiting poets, especially a pair with such a pronounced sense of ironic humor, on such a tour. I have done so many times. However, as I search my mind for impressions of that particular iteration of said tour, I come up blank. I have no reason not to believe Nada when she tells me we took the Entropy Tour -- how could she know of such an eccentric concept without having talked to me about it in the first place?

Likewise, I remember going to the kitschy candy store with Gary and Nada, and I know for a fact that they sell maple candy there, but I don't actually recall their purchase of that candy. However, as I write this, a vague impression swells in my mind that may or may not include maple candy. Is this me creating or re-creating a memory of an actual event? Is it me remembering? Or am I making something up in order to share in Nada's memory of the event? What's the difference?

I opened the q & a with Salman Rushdie the other night with a quote from Midnight's Children which I think gets at this idea very succinctly:

Memory's truth, because memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else's version more than his own.

Why does Nada's memory select the maple candy while mine selects the toy parachutist dangling from the branches of a tree? I don't think you can draw conclusions about someone's character solely based on the unconscious selections their memory makes, but you can get a glimpse of something by looking at those choices.

One of the more interesting films on memory that I have ever seen was Kore-eda's film, After Life. The characters have all died, and they await their transition into the afterlife at a sort of weigh station. During this interregnum, they are given the opportunity to watch footage of their entire lives and each is charged with selecting a single memory to carry with them into death. Once they have selected a memory, they are given a film crew to help them reconstruct that memory. Thus, the memory they carry with them is actually a reconstruction of a reconstruction of an event from their lives.

I think Kore-eda is really onto something about the nature of memory there. What is precious about what we remember is the fact of our having remembered it at all; the fact that we do remember something suggests that what we remember is actually a fabrication, or perhaps more to the point, a fabulation. Even a bad memory sticks around only to be rehearsed and repeated until it makes a kind of sense to the body that experienced it, which can then release some of the trauma into the ether.

from Folly

Finches practices songs in their sleep.
A shrimp's heart is in its head.
A blind chameleon can still change colors to match its environment.
Slugs have four noses.
In the Caribbean there are oysters that can climb trees.
Cats can hear in ultrasound.
Goat's eyes have rectangular pupils.
A duck's quack doesn't echo, and no one knows why.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 8 (Nada Gordon)

Foreign Bodie
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Gordon, Nada
Foreign Bodie

Given to me by Gary Sullivan when he and Nada (I almost wrote, nadie, "no one" in Spanish, as opposed to Nada, "nothing," I guess because I keep thinking about the "ie" at the end of "bodie") read at Big Orbit Gallery with Rod Smith and Mel Nichols on the eve of the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair in 2008.

The lately lamented/resurrected Kevin Thurston brought the group of flarfists for a reading in Just Buffalo's Small Press Poetry Series.

I remember Kevin introduced me to Nada. I introduced myself as Mike. She said, "Are you Mike Kelleher?" I said yes. She said, "You should introduce yourself using your last name."

I remember she began her reading with a very theatrical, Victorian drawing room kind of swoon, the back of her hand touching her forehead, palm and fingers facing the audience, then a sigh, "Poetry--I too dislike it."

I remember wandering around in circles at the book fair. I kept returning to the Edge Books table where Nada, Rod, Gary and Mel sat for most of the day.

I remember Gary gave me two of Nada's books, one of his, plus two or three copies of his comic book, Elsewhere.

I remember sitting next to Gary and Nada at the end of a very long table at India Gate Restaurant in Buffalo, where all of the book fair attendees went to eat after the fair.

I remember volunteering to take the two of them to Niagara Falls the following day.

I remember taking them to the falls. We parked on the American side and walked across the bridge.

I remember thinking how funny it was to take pictures of Nada and Gary because they both love to strike pose.

I am looking at the photos of this day. It was cold. The river was still icy. We looked out through the viewfinders on the bridge. We ate sushi at Taki. Nada spoke to the waitress in Japanese. She said Taki was very authentic. I took photos of my food. We went to a kitschy souvenir place and put on funny hats. Lori took a photo of me wearing a blue felt witch's cap. We took pictures of candy. We watched candy being made. We talked about my uncle's candy store in Brooklyn. Gary and Nada had been there. We took a photo of a toy parachutist that had gotten stuck in the branches of a tree. We walked to the edge of the falls. We talked about Bollywood films. Gary promised to send a list of his top ten. We took a photo of a can of beer in the snow. The can said, "LECH" on the side. We were amused. We took a photo of the big ferris wheel on Clifton Hill. We didn't ride it, though. We took a photo of Nada and Gary in front of a wax figure of Indiana Jones. Gary smiled. Nada raised a gloved maroon fist in the air, palm facing the camera, a small Egyptian relief figure rising out of her head.

from Foreign Bodie



the walking places
talking out loud

in deep water
on dark night

orange jasmine
   some succour

  body a pocket
to hide (things) in

ignoring greetings
as a plate


the tongues
are wagging

you said you had your face
wiped off but I can tell
right now it's
already there

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 7 (Nadine Gordimer)

July's People
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Gordimer, Nadine
July's People

Purchased at the Fordham University bookstore for a summer course in 1990 called, "Politics and the Novel." I can't remember if we actually read this during the six week class or if I read it on my own. I recall we tried to plow through an enormous number of books and failed to get to several of them. I think we did get to this one.

I went to bed last night having made a mental note to myself to write about some specific moment in my life which has now fled. I have to spend all day writing an intro for Salman Rushdie, having spent most of yesterday doing two things: finishing Midnight's Children and fretting over the Facebook status update of Kevin Thurston, who posted that he had been killed in an auto accident, before going off to sleep for eight or nine hours, just at the moment all his friends and family in the west were waking up to read his status update. It must have seemed funny or clever or something when he went to sleep, a lot less so when he woke up to find he'd freaked out or pissed off almost everyone he knew. Anyhow, it ruined a lot of people's days, including my own.

Well, it's not coming back to me, whatever it was. Last night we watched a really shlocky french gangster film from the 80's called Diva. It's rare that a film that begins with such a high quotient of shlockiness actually manages to increase that quotient right up until the last shot of the film, but somehow Diva manages.

Still nothing. Watched a period or so of the Red Wings/Coyotes game after that.

Went to bed, red a few poems from the latest Abraham Lincoln. Read half a chapter from Javier Marias' Mañana en la batalla piensa en me, which I put down three months ago. Read an essay on Joan Mitchell by Bill Berkson. Read a poem from Peter Culley's Hammertown, which I just picked up at the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair for half price -- a great purchase.

I think I jumped on Facebook to read some of the comments after Kevin finally resurfaced. People were not happy, to say the least. mIEKAL aND posted that he saw a meteorite fall from the sky over Wisconsin. It exploded in a flash and made a sonic boom. Already websites are calling it a UFO. That would have been a sight to see. This morning I watched an animation put together from still photos of the event -- pretty amazing.

I think I nodded off to sleep after that. It took a while to get to sleep, but I eventually dozed off. I don't recall what I dreamed about. I woke, made some coffee, read my morning reading, am now ready to get to work. My mother is coming to watch me on stage with Rushdie tomorrow. Her plane arrives at 1.

from July's People

You like to have some cup of tea?–

July bent at the doorway and began that day for them as his kind has always done for their kind.

The knock on the door. Seven o'clock. In governors' residences, commercial hotel rooms, shift bosses' company bungalows, master bedrooms en suite–the tea tray in black hands smelling of Lifebouy soap.

The knock on the door

no door, an aperture in thick mud walls, and the sack that hung over it looped back for air, sometime during the short night.
Bam, I'm stifling; her voice raising him from the dead, he staggering up from his exhausted sleep.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 6 (Kenneth Goldsmith)

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Goldsmith, Kenneth

Sent to me by the author after a visit to Buffalo in 2008.

I took many photos of Kenneth when he visited. He is very photogenic. He wears stylish shoes. I posted a video of his reading on this blog. I put the link on his Wikipedia page. I get a lot of hits from it.

In Buffalo, Kenny read selections from this book as well as the companion texts, Weather and Traffic. His performance of Sports, which is a transcription of the longest 9-inning game in the history of baseball, was hilarious, mostly because Kenny has no knowledge of sports whatever and so dove into the reading of the text in a way that set all kinds of innuendo free from the narrative at hand. In case you need proof he knows nothing of baseball, you will note that several times in the transcription he spells Curt Schilling's first name with a 'K."

Now, the longest nine-inning game in the history of baseball took place on August 18, 2008. It was the second half of a day/night double header between the Yankees and the Red Sox. I believe it was the first game Sidney Ponson ever pitched for the Yankees, so no one knew what they were getting (not much, it turned out). The Yankees eventually beat the Red Sox 14-11 in a game that lasted four hours and forty five minutes. I know this because I watched to the whole game.

I realized that I had witnessed the event while discussing it with the author at a party following the reading in the home of Barbara Cole and Steven Miller. I also discussed real estate with Juliana Spahr.

Kenny sent me a copy a few weeks later. I cannot say that I have read the whole thing. According to the author, that is not the point; however, this morning I read the first few pages while thinking about what to write for this here blog and I am here to tell you it's a good read. If you like sports, you will like Sports.

from Sports

Well, Scott Proctor goes an inning and a third, no runs, no hits. Mariano comes on. Ponson, Villone, Bruney, Myers, Farnsworth, Proctor, Rivera. Nick Green goes to first base for the Yanks. I don't know if he's ever played first but the rule of thumb is that if you're a middle infielder or a third baseman, you can field ground balls, you can make throws to second and so why can't you play first? And over the years, the Yankees have used Luis Sojo and Miguel Cairo and infielders at first so, Nick Green takes over at first, for the ninth. Mariano comes in to get the final three outs. If he does, the Yankees sweep the double header and will move up by three and a half and by four on the loss side. Now here's, uh...Mark Loretta to lead off and he hits a high pop to first. Nick Green in foul territory makes the catch. One away. Boston used Lester, Tavarez, Hanson, Timlin, and Foulke. So one away and here is David Ortiz. And Rivera deals a strike. Yankees have a fourteen to ten lead in the bottom of the ninth, one out, no one on. Ortiz one four four. He hits a high drive to right. That ball is high. It is far. It is gone! Into the Yankee bullpen, a long home run for Ortiz and the Red Sox trail 14 to 11. For Ortiz, his 43rd homer, his 114th RBI. And now here is Manny Ramirez who has singled, doubled, singled, singled and singled. He is five for five. Rivera deals a strike no Manny. Now Rivera deals and the pitch is grounded to third, off the glove of A-Rod an error for A-Rod. So one on and one out, Yanks a three-run lead at 14-11. A-Rod he kind of let the ball play him. Kind of backed up and played it to the side, it went off his glove. So here is Mike Lowell. Now Rivera holds a set and deals a strike. Lowell takes inside, the count 1 and 1. Road Runner high speed online from Time Warner Cable, that pitch in at 95 miles an hour. Now, here's the 1-1. Fouled back and the count 1 and 2. Now Rivera deals low outside. It'll be 2-2 to Lowell. Rivera swung on, hit in the air to right, Bernie moves to right center. He's there to make the catch and there are two away. Here's Wily Mo Peña, Boston's final hope. Peña's 0 for 4 on the night. Rivera deals. Inside and low, the count 1 and 0. Now the pitch. There's a strike. And the count 1 and 1. The Yankees with a 14 to 11 lead here in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. The 1-1 fouled back and the count 1 and 2. Now Rivera deals. Grounded wide at first, fielded by Green. Goes to Rivera covering. IN time for the out. Ball game over! Yankees win! The Yankees win!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 5 (Loren Goodman)

Famous Americans
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Goodman, Loren
Famous Americans

Given to me by the author on November 3, 2005, when he read in the Small Press Poetry Series in Buffalo. Inscribed.

Loren is yet another of my classmates from the poetics program at SUNY Buffalo. He began the same year that I did -- 1997. I think he moved to Japan after two, maybe three years. He was writing about Japanese boxing and so wandered off to go check out the scene in Japan. In the meantime, his first book won the Yale Younger Poets prize.

I don't think I have ever met someone who does deadpan like Loren Goodman. He would give presentations in Charles Bernstein's class that would make the audience squirm because no one knew if he was a) stoned out of his mind b) a complete space cadet c) a brilliant comedian or d) all of the above. No matter how hard the audience laughed, or whether they laughed with him or at him, he always kept a straight face.

(For the record, I think the answer is "C.")

Deadpan is a difficult skill to master, especially when someone is as funny as Loren. At his readings, the audience chuckles at a line, then at another, uncertain at first if he is being funny, then they begin to catch on and before long the whole place is howling with laughter. When this happens, especially if the person performing also finds the content of the poems humorous, it is very difficult to keep from laughing. I remember once or twice spying a slightly dazed smile hinting at the corner of Loren's lips, but I never saw it break out. He just kept on reading and the audience kept on laughing.

from Famous Americans


I am Yeast, a great poet
I live in Ireland
Some say I am the greatest
Poet ever

My poetry makes bread grow
All over Ireland and the world
In glens and valleys, bread rising
In huts, clover paths, and fire wood

There will always be critics
Who deny Yeast
But you can see
The effect of my poetry
Through the potato fields
And the swell of the Liffey.
The amber coins and foaming black ale

Monday, April 12, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 4 (Nikolay Gogol)

Nikolay Gogol
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Gogol, Nikolay
Dead Souls

Purchased at Talking Leaves Books. Someone somewhere told me this was the greatest novel ever written. Or maybe I read that somewhere. Anyhow, I bought it a couple of years ago. I think I started it and then got distracted. I'll get to it one of these days.

Apologies to the literary outlaw Richard Deming (who proved his outlaw bona fides by NOT going to the AWP in Denver this past weekend) for having left the blog untended for nearly a week. Apologies to everyone else who missed me -- I missed you, too! I am feeling refreshed and ready to blog.

On Friday, I took a rental car and drove into the Rockies to visit some old haunts. I hadn't been to Colorado since 1987, the year after I graduated from high school. As I have mentioned many, many times, I was a terrible high school student and when I was done I really didn't want to go to college at all. I liked to paint and I had taken art classes throughout high school. I thought that if I went to art school I might at least pass the next four years in less pain than if I were taking a more intellectually rigorous course of study. I was accepted to the school of visual arts in NY based on my portfolio, but then my father very subtly talked me out of it by telling me there were no dormitories and that most of the students lived at the YMCA with the homeless guys.

My image of New York growing up was a combination of The Warriors, Death Wish, the Son of Sam, Fort Apache and The Bronx mixed with my father's racially tinged stories of how Brooklyn had gone to hell (he blamed the Puerto Ricans), so the idea of diving into the city via the YMCA was a little scary for me. I didn't really care enough to find out for myself. So I announced I would take a year off and go to Colorado to work at a ski resort.

I flew out to Breckenridge and moved into a B & B, where I made friends with six other seasonal ski bums looking for a pad. We moved into an A-Frame in Dillon, Co. My first job was as a dishwasher at the Breckenridge Hilton. We lived happily this way for several months until suddenly things weren't so happy. We partied very, very hard. We would sometimes spend days inside our little house ingesting all manner of controlled substances, causing tons of damage to the property (not to mention our bodies, minds, souls).

The partying also seriously hampered my ability to go to work in the morning. Right around Christmas, I got fired for missing too much work. I think it is fairly difficult to get fired as a dishwasher, but somehow I managed. We were also evicted from our house when the landlord discovered how many of us were living there and how much damage we had caused.

After two months in Colorado, I found myself jobless and on the verge of homelessness, so I was forced to call my father and ask for money. This is how I ended up going to college. He sent me an application, already filled out, for Wheeling College in Wheeling, West Virginia, and said sign this and return it to me and I will send you a check. The one condition is that you return home in April and start working to save for college. You'll enter in the fall. Needless to say, I signed.

I moved into a very nice apartment with two of my former roommates, S. and B., and I got a job working at Pizza Hut in Silverthorne, CO. I went home in April, got a job waiting tables at the mall and went to college in September, my tail between my legs.

Which returns us to the Friday, when I drove from Denver up to the mountains for the first time in twenty three years in hopes of recapturing some memories of that time. I think I was also hoping to feel some kind of pleasing nostalgia -- I did not. I mostly felt a vague recognition of having been in this place once, but not much more. It hadn't changed all that much. I think there had been some new development and so forth, but it was largely as I remembered it.

I could see the apartment complex I moved into from the highway as I drove into Dillon, but I could not find it once I got there. It's called the "Orofino" apartments. "Orofino" is written in large brown letters along the side of a neutral-beige boxy seventies apartment complex. I saw the Pizza Hut in Silverthorne where I wortked. It had been torn down and rebuilt, but was essentially the same. I found the neighborhood of the A-frame house I first lived in, but I couldn't find the house, not remembering the address. I drove along Swan Mountain Road, a perilous mountain shortcut between Dillon and Breckenridge. I used to hitchhike to work along this road every morning. I didn't see the Hilton, but I didn't look very hard, either.

Driving there and back I drove through the tunnel under the Loveland Pass. This actually stirred a couple of memories. My friend, T., went to school at Regis in Denver. I decided to hitchhike into to town to visit one weekend. I was between jobs and apartments. I remember waking early and it was cold and snowy and my roommate and I stuck our thumbs out and got a ride up to the top of Loveland Pass, a snowy peak where we were let out and had to wait another hour or so for a ride. I don't remember much else other than that we made it to Denver and partied all weekend and then hitched our way back to Dillon on Sunday. Wait, I now remember something -- I think one of my roommates had a car. He may have driven us to the pass and let us off to hitchhike. Either that or he picked us up in Denver to take us back. I have a memory of driving in his car through the pass. We were listening to Steely Dan.

I guess I didn't really live in that place long enough for it to leave lasting impressions, or maybe all the drugs we were taking at the time made it all seem a little fuzzy. I am a bit disappointed it didn't provoke more memories, but I guess I have no control over that.

from Dead Souls

To the door of an inn in the provincial town of N. there drew up a smart britchka--a light spring-carriage of the sort affected by bachelors, retired lieutenant-colonels, staff-captains, land-owners possessed of about a hundred souls, and, in short, all persons who rank as gentlemen of the intermediate category. In the britchka was seated such a gentleman--a man who, though not handsome, was not ill-favoured, not over-fat, and not over-thin. Also, though not over-elderly, he was not over-young. His arrival produced no stir in the town, and was accompanied by no particular incident, beyond that a couple of peasants who happened to be standing at the door of a dramshop exchanged a few comments with reference to the equipage rather than to the individual who was seated in it. "Look at that carriage," one of them said to the other. "Think you it will be going as far as Moscow?" "I think it will," replied his companion. "But not as far as Kazan, eh?" "No, not as far as Kazan." With that the conversation ended.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 3.2 (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe)

Faust, Part Two
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
von Goethe, Johann Wofgang
Faust, Part Two

Purchased at the Niagara Falls Outlet Mall Discount Book Store for $2.50.

I remember the first time I heard Goethe's name spoken aloud. I had a professor in college who taught modern American drama. The class was comprised of two elements: long, tedious theater anecdotes and unexplained references to figures, works, and ideas that no one in the class knew a thing about.

I was that kind of generous spirit that assumed the teacher was not just an ostentatious prick but rather a caring soul who wanted us to learn something on our own, so when I heard a reference I did not understand, I would go look it up, thinking it might give me a better understanding of what we were talking about in class. It rarely did, though it at least let me know when he was just showing off, which was often.

Anyhow, I can remember a whole class, I think it was on Eugene O'Neill, in which he dropped the name Faust into the discussion several times without ever telling us who this Faust was or what he had to do with Eugene O'Neill. And then he kept saying the name of the author, "Gurta." Gurta said this. Gurta said that, and so on. Well, I kept going to the library to look up Gurta, but there was no such author that I could discover. When I looked up Faust, I saw the name "Goethe," but the lack of an 'r' in the name threw me off the scent.

I have a memory of it taking me a long time to put two and two together, but it might not have been that long. Memory is funny that way.

from Faust, Part Two

When the petals, like sweet rain,
Deck the earth with fluttering spring,
When the fields are green again,
And to men their blessing bring,
Then the little elves, great souled,
Haste to help, if help they can,
Saint or sinner, for they hold
Heart's compassion for each luckless man.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 3.1 (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe)

Faust, Part One
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang
Faust, Part One

Purchased at the Niagara Falls Outlet Mall Discount Book Store for $2.00.

I had a dream last night that digging through a drawer I found a rare volume of essays by Frank O'Hara. It had the name "Mirakove" written in cursive on the front cover. I opened it to read what was inside, but the pages all started falling out, so I closed the book in order to keep it together. I was trying figure out how to read the book without someone else finding out that I had found it. I felt very secretive and very excited.

I also dreamed that Chinua Achebe had returned to Buffalo for another performance in the Babel series. He agreed to do a special student discussion at Kleinhan's music hall. Thousands and thousands of students came to the reading. When I walked on stage to get set up, the balcony had swollen to such a size that it had begun to take over the stage itself. I went downstairs to a dressing room and prepared. I tried to think of how to introduce Achebe. I walked upstairs and he had already been deposited on stage -- without his wheel chair! In fact, he had no arms or legs at all, and the stump of a body sat in a little circle on the floor. The circle seemed protective somehow. His body sat so far back on the stage that he could not be seen by the audience. I knelt down in front of him and asked if he had brought his wheelchair. He said yes but that his handlers were worried he would roll off the stage. I turned around and now all I could see was balcony. No audience, just balcony. The balcony had taken over the whole auditorium.

Not quite sure where the O'Hara book came from, but I feel like it has something to do with Bill Berkson. I feel like I made a mental note to myself to go back and re-read some of O'Hara's essays when Bill was here a couple of weeks ago. I have never met or read Carol Mirakove, so not sure about where the name came from, but the handwriting was definitely Creeley's. My neighbor recently bought five books from the Creeley library collection from Granary books, including Creeley's first edition of Naked Lunch. He let me look through the books over the weekend. Each one had Creeley's signature in the upper right hand corner of the first page, followed by the year of acquisition. I think the drawer referred to the book of poems by my friend Jimmie Gilliam that Lori and I found in a kitchen drawer while looking at this house.

Not sure why Achebe appeared in my dream, other than as a figure of anxiety -- we had a massive sound system failure when he visited a couple of years ago. However, Salman Rushdie is coming to town next week and there will be a student portion of his visit, so this must have been some kind of dream rehearsal for that event. The balcony portion must have been a sort of wish-fulfillment. We're very likely to sell out the lower portion of the theater, and I have been asking myself at what point we should consider opening the balcony to seating for this event.

from Faust, Part One

I HAVE, alas! Philosophy,
Medicine, Jurisprudence too,
And to my cost Theology,
With ardent labour, studied through.
And here I stand, with all my lore,
Poor fool, no wiser than before.
Magister, doctor styled, indeed,
Already these ten years I lead,
Up, down, across, and to and fro,
My pupils by the nose,--and learn,
That we in truth can nothing know!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 3 (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe)

Von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang
Elective Affinities

Purchased at the Niagara Falls Outlet Mall Discount Bookstore for $2.50.

This is the kind of book I was once in the habit of filling bags with at the store because they were so cheap. I'd drive to the outlet mall of a Sunday afternoon and walk out with ten or fifteen books, having spent maybe fifty dollars. Sadly, those days are over. I miss that bookstore, mostly because of the way it was organized to appeal to my purchasing affinities. They had contemporary literature in one section -- all bestsellers and genre fiction, etc. Then they had a whole section devoted to Penguin Classics and the Modern American Library. The Penguin Classics were divided into sections by the color of the tabs on the sides of the books. There were yellow ones, like this, which I think signified literature in translation. There were red ones, which I think signified literature in English -- I don't think they distinguished between British or American literature in this regard. There were purple ones, which I think signified classical texts. There were green ones, which I think signified ancient or religious texts. Then there were the 20th Century Classics, which had the same basic design, but with no tab and a cover that was light green on white. Anyhow, they had them all, and they rarely cost more than $7.

Library of America Hardcovers, which had a small section to themselves, only cost $9. I've seen all of these books in other stores, on little spinning caddies together, or separately on the shelves, but I have never seen all of them take up so much space in a single store. They were quite beautiful to behold.

They also contained such a multitude of titles that I often found myself imagining, though rarely taking, random undiscovered paths in my reading. I remember thinking I needed to get around to reading Wilkie Collins one day. Occasionally, I did take these paths. I once bought a copy of the two-volume LOA anthology of American crime novels. I read both of them cover to cover and then went on to buy the Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett anthologies and to read all of those. I wouldn't even have started had I not seen those books on those shelves at those prices.

I wonder where all those books went. They're probably sitting in some warehouse somewhere, in piles, gathering dust. Or they've been separated and distributed among many bookstores, where they sit hidden on the shelves among all the other books, waiting for someone like me who never comes along.

from Elective Affinities

Every man must be his own counselor, and do what he can not let alone. If all go well, let him be happy, let him enjoy his wisdom and his fortune; if it go ill, I am at hand to do what I can for him. The man who desires to be rid of an evil knows what he wants ; but the man who desires something better than he has got is stone blind.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 12.1 (Peter Gizzi)

The Outernationale
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Gizzi, Peter
The Outernationale

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

I sat down three different times yesterday to write a blog post and each time failed to come up with something to write about. I suppose that writing these posts is like any other creative endeavor -- I have to keep reminding myself that there are no rules or expectations, otherwise I get stuck writing nothing. In this instance I kept feeling the urge to write something about one of the several interactions I have had with Peter Gizzi over the years, like the one in the previous post.

I could think of three off hand: meeting him for the first time in NY, just before I came to Buffalo, and asking him what it was like and him telling me it was a cheap place to live. Peter coming to Buffalo on a separate occasion with his wife, poet Elizabeth Willis. I think they both read. Or maybe I am conflating her visit with his. I remember talking with her in a restaurant. Now that I think of it, he wasn't there at all. Running into him at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC during the AWP conference, and he joking with me about getting Paul Auster to blurb Human Scale (Peter blurbed it, too). A note from Peter seemingly out of the blue after he had read To Be Sung. He had been injured and sitting on a couch for days and said he had read it twice and that he enjoyed it and thanked me for sending it along. Seeing him last year, or maybe two years ago, in New Haven. He and Elizabeth came to a reading I gave with Richard Deming. We took group photos, everyone smiling. Etcetera.

Well, I guess I solved the problem.

from The Outernationale

Cheap Imitation

Through a single pane
a distant hemlock signals
in northern light
a distant light weirds the field
pole star notes on cold
stone, on blue light
a dirty birch light
a fathomless muzzle-gray
pussywillow stone light
the day Socrates died
into evergreen light, cold
cold light of mind.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 12 (Peter Gizzi)

Artificial Heart
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Gizzi, Peter
Artificial Heart

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

Sometime within my first two years here, I put together a reading for Just Buffalo featuring Peter Gizzi and Bernadette Mayer. I am pretty sure it was in the Spring of 1999. I remember going to dinner with Peter and Bernadette and Phil Good and Aaron Skomra and Michelle Citrin. We ate at the Anchor Bar, home of the chicken wing, despite the fact that Aaron and Michelle were vegan. I think they ate french fries. Peter told us there was this new movie we all needed to see called Rushmore and offered to take us all to see it. We piled into my little Nissan and drove out to the multiplex at the Walden Galleria Mall. I remember all of us laughing through the whole film, and I could feel Peter's evident happiness at having turned everyone on to a great film. In our occasional correspondence since, the slowly steady decline in the quality of Wes Anderson's features has been a frequent subject.

from Artificial Heart

Lonely Tylenol

There I could never be a boy.
–Frank O'Hara

You have to begin somewhere.
The devil of your empty pocket moves as escargot
up the artery of a hollow arm,
ending on the lip of your dismay–it shows–
in the Brillo morning of a shaving mirror.
It is that morning always, and it is that morning
now, and now you must fight, not with fists
but with an eraser. The duelist awaits a ham sandwich
on the dock where your ship comes in.
Be warned and without ceremony take your place
as you have before. Only look once
at the idiot chagrin and smile as you ready your slingshot.
You are not alone in your palindrome.
Why is it so hard to know everything it said
the mirror spoke. The book is darker
than night. Do you read me?
This is written somewhere and no one can
read it. It is not for them but to you
it is a reproof from years of neglect.
There there. No place like home.